I started to get more accustomed to work. Lauren and I would get there around 7:45 every morning but we’d act like we got there at 7:30 so that we could leave at four. Angela would quickly stride in at 8:30 or 9 with her long black sweater flowing behind her yellow-orange and usually crumpled hair.
She’d always start talking about her pug, Romeo. He loved chicken and whenever she asked him if he wanted chicken he would go ballistic. Other times she’d show me weird historic videos on her computer where people would disappear or where there were weird UFOs or something like that. She was fun, I liked her. She rented a place that was only like 5 minutes away and I was jealous of her drive to work.
I liked Angela, I was closer to Lauren though because of our drives in together. Lauren and Angela weren’t really that close at first.
Lauren was having a hard time with something one day, I forget what. She had told me about Cheeseburger Thursdays at a local shop down by where Angela lived. She said that sometimes she went there with people on Thursdays and went to the beach nearby. I suggested that on that day, when she was upset, that we should go to get burgers to get her out of her funk.
We got to the beach. She seemed appreciative of the idea but I couldn’t help but notice she seemed more distant than normal. We sat on concrete blocks that lined the beach and ate lunch and chatted. I tried to remain positive and have a good time and cheer her up. Then we headed back to the lab.
Other times we’d head to the local Hannaford together and grab snacks to stock up our desks with. I’d get instant oatmeals and teas and cookies and mini Reese’s for the afternoon slumps of entering data.
On our rides home she started talking more about other people we worked with. She gave me the low-down on everyone we worked with which was nice because it made me feel like I could kind of knew what was going on even though I had only been there for a short while.
She’d talk about this one girl, Mary, in particular. I had met Mary and she seemed just as nice as anyone from what I gathered. She was Lauren’s age, maybe in her early 30’s and pale with glasses. She wasn’t too thin and upon meeting her I had noticed her big wide hips, long greasy hair and her blasé yet compassionate attitude. She was overly interested in anything you said attitude while trying to maintain the appearance that she wasn’t for fear of scaring them off. Looking back I see some of myself in her.
Lauren told me on one of our rides home together that Mary, much to my surprise, had herpes. She had gotten it, so Lauren said, by sleeping with lots of fishermen up North in Lapointe, where our other partner lab was. She worked there before coming south to our lab.
I had become friends with Lauren, but for some reason I felt like I had to agree with her that Mary was no good. I instinctively felt like if I spoke up and said my opinion that Lauren may close off or become angry.
From behind her maroon neutral glasses, Lauren casually brought up how she can get stressed out at work and overwork herself when she’s not careful. Again, casually, she asked me if I ever did the same thing.
I reluctantly admitted that I did, I knew I needed to calm down a bit because I sometimes did exactly what she suggested. From behind the steering wheel of her dirty 2016 Chevy Silverado, with purpose, she went on to say how nice it was to not care so much about work. I again agreed that that could be nice, but inside I felt like a scared little girl, agreeing to do what her mom told her was suitable for her. I dismissed the purpose in her voice and attributed it to a want to help me.
She started to chat about anxiety and told me how she was seeing a therapist. I confessed how I had really been wanting to see a therapist as well. I was surprised how much we seemed to have in common right off the bat. I was excited to have a new friend and grateful that I had someone cool to hang out with at work.
Bemused she asked why I was thinking about getting a therapist. I told her partly because I had had a bad experience at my last job. Not just that though, I assured her. I went on to tell her that I had been struggling with anxiety for quite some time.
She asked me if I would start meeting her at her house in the mornings instead of at the restaurant where we had been meeting. And that’s what we did every morning for about 8 months. I’d go on to meet her dogs and open up my door and greet them. Most mornings she kept me waiting in my car for a while, but I didn’t mind. I felt honored to be so close to her. I felt like I was doing something right.
We would talk about commonalities and she was learning more and more about me as I was her. She started to talk more about Mary. I would just listen and gawk when she said especially surprising things that she had supposedly done or said.
Chatter about other people in our lab started after a couple more days. I accredited it to a need to be funny so I went along with it. I always wanted to believe the best in Lauren, even though she was showing me the worst. I agreed how gross it was that Mary had supposedly slept with all those fishermen. And I laughed and laughed when Lauren would insult her. I didn’t think about how terrible it was for Mary. I was only just meeting and getting to know Mary, yet I knew a very intimate detail of her life. I had thought she was a little strange, but definitely nice, but why was I so adamant in my sudden distaste for her? Slight social missteps by Mary would make up the bulk of our afternoon discussions on our rides home together. I wanted to be accepted by Lauren and for her to know that I was cool, but after awhile I couldn’t help but notice that I’d feel scared if I wasn’t a certain way around her.
Jacob, a field sampler, also seemed like a nice guy. He was young, like me, and short and seemed interesting, self-assured, and pretty friendly. He worked with an older gentleman named Peter, down the hall on the other side of the building. Peter and Jacob were both water samplers for our lab, but didn’t work in the lab like I did. They spent the majority of their time out in the field and had their own office. I remember talking to Jacob at a random work barbeque right when I started and learned that he played ultimate frisbee and then we talked about how we both frisbee golfed which was cool. I saw him every now and again bringing in samples and putting them in our fridge in the lab.
Lauren didn’t have anything nice to say about him on our carpool. She mentioned that he was the reason why the samplers were always getting new rules placed upon them and she was always trash talking him. I mostly just kept quiet, until she made some big effort to make her point and I’d grunt something agreeable just wanting to be done with the topic.
Even though she was always talking badly about a lot of people I didn’t worry about what she thought of me. I felt safe and like I belonged as her friend. I felt like I couldn’t be touched. I was completely myself with her and felt like I deserved the idol worshipping that she gave me when I was being funny or myself.
She made it seem like she was telling me more and more about herself because she liked me and wanted to deepen our friendship. The problem was the friendship that I thought I had created with Lauren was only in my mind. I learned that sometimes things appear to be what you need, until they give you what you actually need.